Experts Maybe Not So Expert-y After All

We talk a lot around here about the people who hold themselves out as financial experts, and how they’re mostly full of bologna. And while we’re on the topic: Donald Trump! Why does anyone think of that dope as a paragon of financial acumen? The dude was born rich and still managed to go bankrupt.

We also dispense a fair bit of advice, or, at least, ponderous suggestions and strongly held opinions, even though none of us is, in any way, a certified expert in matters fiscal. Luckily, that doesn’t matter, because, as a new study reveals, professional mutual fund managers, who presumably would know a thing or two about managing their own money, are just as profligate, impetuous, and generally pound-foolish as the rest of us.

One of the researchers involved suggests that the main takeaway is “average investors might be better off managing their own stock portfolios rather than paying a high-fee mutual-fund managers, because beating the market is rare and very difficult.” That is surely true, but doesn’t go far enough. Average people, who mostly don’t invest in anything beyond groceries, rent, and used cars, should take great solace in knowing that even to the experts, money is basically inscrutable and advantageous decisions are elusive. So go ahead and lace up your fancy sneakers, put your iPhone in your pocket, and go buy a latte. There is a reason they call economics “the dismal science.” There is also probably a reason they call boxing “the sweet science,” but let’s not worry about that just now.

Photo by the author.

I Don’t Get Las Vegas

Las Vegas Boulevard, commonly known as the Strip, is a singular example of government and private industry working together to extract every last dollar from every last man, woman and child in America. The sidewalks themselves are in on the scheme.

Who’s a Real Artist? Ask the IRS

The New York Times reports felicitous news for working artists with day jobs: they can deduct the expenses associated with creating their art from their taxes, even if those expenses exceed the profits derived from the art. This is good news in the most limited of ways, because it lays bare just how difficult it is to make art profitably, and presents a victory that only a small minority of artists will likely benefit from, but still, the existence of tax benefits for fine artists takes a bit of the sting out of the usual news about tax loopholes.

In a case involving Susan Crile, a tenured studio art professor at Hunter College, the IRS asserted that her art activities were merely ancillary to her teaching, and couldn’t be treated as an independent money-making venture. (“[The IRS] agrees,” the tax court ruling reports, “that petitioner has been a successful, though rarely a profitable, artist.” Thanks, IRS!) The tax court disagreed, affirming that in fact, Crile is a real-life artist, even if only three of her 40 years as an artist were profitable.

But! This does not mean that I can start deducting the costs of cooking rice and beans and buying beer for a twenty-person band rehearsal every week.

Why I Had Kids

Following on Meaghan’s meditation on childrearing and work and the putting-together of grown-up puzzle pieces, commenter Vanderlyn asked the following not-crazy question: “Why do people still yearn to have biological children? Especially when doing so will render one’s life (more) financially tenuous, when there are so many unwanted children already out there, and when the world is already straining under the load of 7 billion of us?”

OK, Gentrification is Lousy. Now What?

The problem, ultimately, is capitalism. It is a system designed to channel goods to the people willing and able to pay the most for them, including real estate.

One Answer for All the Advice Column Questions Ever

At 37, I frequently find myself talking with people about whether they should have kids. This is an understandable dilemma, with the sands running out of the biological hourglass and all that, and the key issue always seems to be, “Will I regret not having kids?” or, “Will I not love having kids as much as I thought and thus, regret having them?” (Here’s a letter to Dear Sugar that lays out the general script.)

Career Advice for Those Considering the Artistic Life

All of which is to say, don’t quit your day job, or if you do, don’t join a 20-person brass band.

Our Money Daydreams: Faith and a Truly Unlimited Bus Pass

“Sometimes, I also dream of getting a bus pass that never runs out of fares.”

Our Money Daydreams: Orlando Bloom and Big Media

Lauren E. writes:

When I was in high school, I tried to write a screenplay based on a book I liked. I fantasized frequently about casting Orlando Bloom in the movie. He and I would fall madly in love and I would never have to worry about money again!

Our Money Daydreams: Huge Apartments and Bustling Hometowns

I start a successful environmental retail/manufacturing company and set the headquarters in downtown Buffalo (where I grew up), and then buy an old brick, multi-story office building close by and converting the levels into housing for myself/my family, my parents, and my sister. Buffalo economy is revitalized!

Our Money Daydreams: Befriending Elderly Millionaires & Finding Bags of Gold

Constanza S. writes:

Sometimes I dream that I’ll meet a really wealthy old person who is ignored by their whole family and we’ll become friends and she/he will leave me all their money. I’m thinking we’ll go out to have pizza and ice cream a couple of times and old people usually LOVE ME so that’s probably all it would take.

Then they die and I’m RICH FOREVER. (and sad about losing my friend who I kind of just met but we had a really special connection)